Having either straightened and corrected for distortions or found these to be unnecessary, it is time to move to the last step in the Three Stages of Crop. Here we slice away portions of our image’s pixels and create the final composition. That composition, isn’t set in stone but rather is subject to your own unique personal vision. One picture can have many crops.
I think about each of my photographs as individual stories that I am trying to tell. Each story has a subject, a protagonist, if you will. My job as the cropping agent is to compose a picture that is pleasing and powerful and tells the story best. I also want to make my protagonist as compelling as possible. There are many individual techniques, rules and methods to follow bringing an image toward a more powerful iteration. These concepts, Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, et al, will be covered in-depth in later articles. For now we are going to discuss the basics of the Compose stage.
“Cutting for composition is designed around two basic concepts: removing distractions and strengthening your subjects placement.”
Many items intrude into the frame of our pictures. As our image captured is a crudely or carefully cropped version of the real world, it is sometimes not possible to keep errant items from frame’s edge. In the above shot straight-out-of-the-camera, the foliage on the left-especially the bright stem, really draws our eye away from the central subject: Butterfly and Blossom.
Cropping off the left side of the image to remove the distracting foliage and the bright stem yields the above image. Little remains that is too distracting except empty space. A combination of place setting and careful lighting have rendered most of the scene benign. There is a bright stem remnant that still draws the eye but it is too close to the subject to simple be lopped off. This will have to be dealt with in editing software.
Composing for Strength
The image, trimmed for distraction removal is lopsided. There is too much dead space on the right hand side. Our main subject, Butterfly and Blossom, is too far off-center. In order to make a more pleasing and more powerful composition, we need to rid ourselves of the extra space while still leaving a balanced composition and putting the most important subject in a position of power.
My personal choice was to balance the flower by centering it in the scene. While Dead-Center-Is-Deadly, the butterfly’s offset position allows me to get away with it. It is really the subject of the image-whereas the flower is more of an supporting object. Placing the butterfly at the upper left power point of the rule of thirds, leaves me with an almost square composition. Just enough space is left on either side of the blossoms to contain them within the image. The beautiful curve of the stem is left barely intact to keep the two from floating in space. The butterfly is just enough off-center to give the image some visual tension.
Many other crops can be devised for an image like this. Refer back to the first image in the article with more horizontal-styled crop. This more square final crop happens to be the one that makes sense to me and appeals most-today. Tomorrow, I may prefer another. Now if I could just find an 15×16 inch frame at the local art supply store to house my chosen crop…
Remember when cropping:
- Correct for Distortion
- Compose for content
Those are the three stages of crop.
With this foundation laid, we can explore the world of crop.
Rikk Flohr © 2010